Stanford Looks to Fill Three Starting Positions Upfront to Join DeCastro and Martin
David DeCastro, along with Jonathan Martin, have combined to start 50 games over the last two seasons.
July 22, 2011
This is the fourth installment of a 10-part series that will breakdown Stanford by position as the Cardinal prepare for the start of training camp on Monday, August 8. In this segment, we take a look at Stanford's offensive line, which has been one of the strongest units in the nation over the last two seasons. All-America candidates David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin anchor the line which is in search for starters at center, left guard and right tackle, following heavy graduation losses.
STANFORD, Calif. -- Following the graduation losses of center Chase Beeler, left guard Andrew Phillips and right tackle Derek Hall, Stanford's offensive line - considered one of the nation's best over the last two seasons - will be a unit in transition heading into summer camp.
The cupboard is far from bare, however. All-America candidates David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, who have combined to make 50 starts over the last two seasons, return at right guard and left tackle, respectively. Both players earned first team All-Pac-10 recognition last season and are on preseason watch lists for the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy.
"We have two guys who are extremely experienced in David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin," said first year offensive line coach and running game coordinator Mike Bloomgren, who spent the last four years on the coaching staff of the New York Jets. "Then we have some guys who are unproven. They are talented, but still unproven."
DeCastro and Martin have been anchors on an offensive line that has allowed the second fewest sacks in the nation (13) while paving the way for Stanford to post the top two rushing marks in school history each of the last two seasons. In Martin's case, the talented left tackle has protected Andrew Luck's blindside, allowing him to complete 64.4 percent of his passes over the last two seasons, including a gaudy 70.7 completion percentage last year.
"When you talk about David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, you're talking about two guys who are playing at an elite, elite level in college football at their respective positions," said Bloomgren.
"David manhandles people going up and down the field. His work ethic is unlike any other player in our program. Not to say others aren't working just as hard, but no one is outworking David DeCastro. He is a self-made man in a lot of ways."
Bloomgren has also been very impressed from what he has seen of Martin on tape and during spring ball. "In terms of protecting that guy who wears No. 12, there is no one we'd rather have at left tackle than Jonathan Martin. Like DeCastro, he is doing everything he can in the weight room and is becoming a great leader."
Despite the comfort of knowing the right guard and left tackle positions are secured with All-America talent, Bloomgren will have his work cut out for him once camp commences to identify the players who will solidify starting roles at center, left guard and right tackle.
Junior Sam Schwartzstein and sophomore Khalil Wilkes are locked in battle to fill the center position, capably manned for the last two seasons by Chase Beeler, who earned first team All-America honors last season by the Associated Press and Sporting News.
"Losing a guy like Chase Beeler would hurt any football team," said Bloomgren. "It will especially hurt us because we don't have the experience of that guy who can make all of our calls out there. We've put a lot on David DeCastro to take on a leadership role in making some of those calls.
"Schwartzstein and Wilkes battled all spring. They've had their ups and downs but we are really pleased with how hard they are working and how hard they push each other day in and day out."
"There aren't a lot of starts or playing time between them," admitted Bloomgren. "But that's why they call us coaches. We're going to do everything we can to get them ready for that first game against San Jose State.
Bloomgren is also looking forward to the competition among this group.
"We are going to try a lot of different combinations early in camp. You are going to see a lot of different guys with the ones almost every practice until someone reaches up and grabs that position and won't let go.
"We're telling our guys not to let anyone step up and start that first game against San Jose State or any other game for that matter. Take that job--that's what we are waiting for. We want five guys we can count on and three other guys who can go into any game at anytime and play great Stanford football. Once we have that then we will start gelling together and find some continuity."